Bezos Earth Fund Partners on Research Initiative to Aid Fossil Fuel-Dependent Economies

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Resources for the Future (RFF), the Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and the Bezos Earth Fund, are pleased to announce the launch of the Resilient Energy Economies (REE) initiative. The multi-year effort will fund economic research and build a community of scholars, policymakers, and economic development practitioners dedicated to boosting economic resilience in fossil fuel-dependent regions. 

We are focused on developing innovative solutions by bolstering the people who understand this issue the best: those whose communities are facing uncertain economic prospects due to a heavy dependence on the coal, oil, and gas industries. Our institutions also bring expertise and policy perspectives, but we believe that achieving an equitable transition to a net-zero economy will require local, state, tribal, and federal experts all working together.Daniel Raimi, RFF Fellow and Director of the RFF Equity in the Energy Transition Initiative

To kick off their collaboration, scholars from around the country, including RFF, CGEP, the Bezos Earth Fund, Montana State University, the University of Wyoming, West Virginia University, and other members of the REE steering committee published a report today that describes the current research landscape. The report also outlines the need for additional scholarship to help communities and policymakers design, implement, and evaluate strategies to support the economies of fossil fuel-dependent regions in the United States.

They write that, although global leaders committed to an equitable transition away from fossil fuels at last year’s COP28 in Dubai, there is very little existing analysis on how to increase economic resilience in fossil fuel-dependent communities. These communities are at risk of losing tax revenue, jobs, and ways of life as fossil fuel use declines. Given that demand for coal, oil, and gas may peak as early as this decade, there is an urgent need to develop tangible strategies that can mitigate risks to fossil fuel-based economies in the United States and around the world.

Communities all over America depend on fossil fuel industries as sources of jobs and public revenues that fund schools, roads, and hospitals. These communities have provided the energy to help power the global economy for more than a century. Our goal is to work with these communities to build resilient local economies that can successfully navigate a global energy transformation.” – Dr. Noah Kaufman, CGEP Senior Research Scholar

To build the body of evidence needed to inform communities and policymakers, REE will fund an initial round of $1.3 million in grants to support research into economic resilience strategies for US fossil fuel-dependent regions. The research priorities for the grants were identified by members of the initiative’s academic steering committee. REE encourages social science scholars, particularly those from fossil fuel-dependent regions, to submit proposals that can directly address the most pressing topics. Pre-proposal submissions will be accepted starting on May 1; full proposals will be invited from the most promising projects. Members of the steering committee will review pre-proposals and help choose which projects will be invited to submit a full proposal.

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The transitions ahead of us are not simple. If we’re all going to share in the benefits of a sustainable US economy, we need the research community to focus not just on how we build a new energy system, but also how we move away from the old one. We’re looking forward to getting some of our best economic thinkers working on this.” – Dr. Leon Clarke, Director of Decarbonization Pathways at the Bezos Earth Fund